Adult Red-tailed Hawk In A Flight Posture I Love

It’s been a while since I’ve liked one of my Red-tailed Hawk photos as much as I do this one.

Yesterday was a good day for raptors in northern Utah. My subjects included Golden Eagles, Rough-legged Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Prairie Falcons and Turkey Vultures and I also observed several species I didn’t photograph including Short-eared Owls, American Kestrels and Northern Harriers.

But it was the Red-tailed Hawks that really stole the show. They were numerous and even fairly cooperative as they performed behaviors related to nesting and mating. It’s an exciting time of year.


1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I caught this one at the moment it lifted off from sagebrush and I love the forward sweep of the wings, the beautiful flared red tail, the excellent eye contact and the mixed background of bright blue sky and hillside. There’s light on almost the entire visible surface of the bird and in my experience that happens only rarely with a raptor in flight.

I really enjoy this forward wing position and I have a theory as to why it occurred in this situation. While perched the bird had settled so far down into the sage that many spiky twigs were poking up around it that would have interfered with a more typical wing-beat direction on the first stroke. Usually the first wingbeats are more vertical and downward but in order to avoid the twigs the hawk swooped its wings more forward to provide that needed initial lift. The result was this wing position that I like so very much. Perhaps readers with more raptor experience than I have (falconers or rehabbers) will provide some insight on my theory, one way or another.

I’ll be posting more Red-tailed Hawk photos in the near future. For now I have hundreds of photos from yesterday to review and cull.


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